Saturday, 17 October 2015

Car rental software - An in-depth look



1. Carhire Manager Web  - a  state of the art  car rental software

Carhire Manager Web is a state of the art, innovative, web based car rental software that maybe be used from car rental business of any size.
By utilizing the latest technologies available we managed to combine the enormous functionality of the tool together with performance and beauty through an outstanding user interface,  making Carhire Manager Web very user friendly.

The system includes the following integrated components

  • Back office with vast functionality
  • Multiple integrated websites than can be customized through the back office admin menu. I-frame ,  deep links and even SEO capability
  • CRM functionality (Client History/statistics/ Newsletters/ SMS, emails, complaint follow up system, evaluations, graphs e.t.c )
  • XML interface for connecting with partners or car rental brokers ( Already connected with TravelJigsaw, Cartrawler, MicroNexus, CarJet, Skyscanner, AutoEurope, Economy and many more)
  • Agent Portal ( for smaller agents so they can submit their bookings directly into the system)
  • Mobile Interface (deliveries, collections, days monitoring, reservations entry etc
  • Online Vehicle tracking  though Google Maps interface
  • Generic Accounting Interface





2. Car Hire Manager Web Technology / Methods

Car Hire Manager Web is a .NET 4.5-based web application built with the C # programming language in Microsoft Visual Studio environment. The system is 100% web based i.e. it can be run through an Internet browser, either locally or via the web.
Carhire Manager Web may run from any web enabled device, desktop, laptop, tablet, or smart phone.

The system uses the following techniques / methods.

  • JavaScript/AJAX
  • JQuery
  • JSON
  • SOAP ( Simple Object Access Protocol)

The system is using an Oracle database while the reports are built through the Crystal Reports engine for Visual Studio.

Through an advance and innovative use of JQuery,  Carhire Manager Web  has got a very elegant UI,  which is much similar to the  Windows desktop even though Carhire Manager Web is a fully web based application.

3. Operating Environment

Car Hire Manager Web is installed on a web server. The Web server must have access to the database server where the Oracle database reside. Carhire Manager Web uses a so-called Oracle  A.S.F.U. processor license which is included in the package. The Back office can be accessed either through the web or through a VPN network. The website must be accessible to the public on the Web.



4. Back Office.

Back office is the part of the  system where common users are doing the daily work such as the registration of reservations, rental contracts, payments,  registration of maintenance tasks on cars, registration of traffic fines, invoicing to agents, reporting etc. There is a large amount of features that covers all business processes from customer inquiry and quote  until the collection of the car.

The first thing you notice when you enter the back office is the very good looking user interface. The interface was made possible by utilizing  JQuery in an innovative way. You feel that you are working with the very familiar Windows Desktop even though you are actually working with a web application.




The system uses a variety of tools to meet the requirements of daily work. There are dashboards with "drill-down" capabilities for users and for managers, functions  for today's tasks ,  Days Monitoring panel and even individual message board for reminders to each user. In addition, the system gives automatic reminders for a number of tasks like car service, oil change, MOT , etc.






The graphical presentation of cars and reservations (Fleet chart) allows the user to read the current situation very quickly and assess the availability of vehicles for the coming days. By using the fleet chart, the user can optimize the fleet  very easily. The system graphically presents also the availability of other equipment such as GPS, child seats, etc.





Carhire Manager Web is already using  a lot of automations and  is continuously enhanced with  more automation under the ongoing development. Just to mention one example, the system can scan a driver's license s and automatically fill in the client details in customer form.  Another example is the automatic allocation of cars to bookings that may be performed  through  the fleet chart.

It also has all the necessary functions for system administration. One can, for example, add users and user groups in the system or define a variety of different system parameters. The administrator can also using the  function "Adhoc queries" in order to design instantly ad hoc reports as needed.


5. Websites

Web visitors can book their rentals through the website and pay online with a credit card. The system can be integrated with any "Payment Gateway" provided that there is access to the gateway's API. To be able to make online payments it is required to have SSL certificates.

Carhire Manager Web allows the user to build multiple integrated  websites as needed with multi language support. The number depends only on the domain names available. A website consists of an empty frame that contains the system's booking engine, which controls the booking process. With the exception of the booking engine, anything else can be adjusted as desired. Users can use the HTML editor in the back office to write their own HTML code and create their own pages  as well as adding graphics and creating layouts . It is also possible to add keywords, meta tags and other SEO related staff in order to optimize the website for search engines.

Additionally there is a capability of providing i- frames code to agents so that they can  easily insert the block of code in their existing websites and connect to Carhire Manager Web booking engine. Moreover there is a possibility of providing deep links to the website in combination with the XML interface.



6. CRM

CRM functionality is spread and well integrated in the system. One can easily view customer history and statistics, and may  send out evaluation forms to clients to make analyzes or even send SMS to customers and make e-mail campaign. Additionally there is the opportunity to follow up any complaints coming in  from customers.

Sending SMS is possible by using a third party web service provided by Clickatell (https://www.clickatell.com) which means that you can buy optional SMS package directly from Clickatell.

7. Vehicle Tracking

Vehicle tracking is a comprehensive module that contains all the necessary features to track cars online but it is also possible to run a playback i.e. check afterwards a driving route at a given time. The system uses the Google Maps API.

One can create a so-called "Geofence" and let the system send warning message (email or SMS) when exceeding a geofence. Additionally, there is the possibility to let the system send warning messages when exceeding a certain speed. The system also provides the ability for users to place on the map any number of POI (Points of Interest) for example, hotels, airports, train stations etc. In order to use the tracking system, it is required to purchase and install special vehicle tracking devices.  Carhire Manager Web has integrated Bofan products and more specifically model PT502 but integration with other devices is possible if necessary.


8. Mobile Interface

Even though the system UI is doing very well in the most devices , desktop, laptop, tablet, smart phone, etc, Carhire Manager Web contains a module that is particularly  adapted to mobile users. The module contains the main functions for checkout and check in  that takes place outside the office, for example, in a hotel.

Automation is quite important here, too, one can e.g. read a contract  via a QR code reader on a smart phone and get all the details on booking. In the same way one can read QR code on the car window and initiate the check in process, i.e. collection of the car. The rental agreement may be printed using a mobile printer.


9. XML Interface

Car Hire Manager Web can communicate with the outside world i.e. with other software via an XML interface that is a SOAP-based Web service. The XML interface is built according O.T.A. standards  (OpenTravel Alliance).

Through the XML interface,  other applications can retrieve data from Carhire Manager Web or insert  reservations in  the system automatically. The XML interface can be used by agents and or business partners, to send their reservations directly. A number of really great car hire broker on the Web, for example, CarTrawler, TravelJigsaw, Skyscanner, Carjet, Micro Nexus, Auto Europe, Economy, Titanium Systems etc. have already integrated their systems with Carhire Manager Web and send their bookings automatically.

Via XML interface is possible to  connect any existing websites so that bookings made  can automatically fall directly into Carhire Manager Web.

10. Agent Portal

The Agent Portal is a module in the system which is used by small agents in order to manually enter their bookings directly into Carhire Manager Web. Agents will be provided with login credentials and they can only have access to their own bookings.

11. Accounting Interface

Carhire Manager Web has a generic ,  not software specific, XML based accounting interface. The interface is based on a web service that any accounting software package may call in order to get data from Carhire Manager Web.

12. Security and Privacy

Besides the usual access controls that is, user ID, password and user groups, etc. there is also a central log where all operations inside the system are recorded. Many items, such as reservations, vehicles, cash book, etc. have their own history where you can see every single activity that is relative for them.

Moreover there is a  function where you can put restrictions on access, thereby allowing access only from specific IP addresses. Additionally, after a period of inactivity in the system, the screen locks automatically  and  requires  the users to re-enter their password.

Any credit card related information is encrypted with 64 bit encryption.  Encryptions is also used for other reasons in a variety of locations in the system.

13. Integration with third party products

Carhire Manager Web  is integrated with or uses the following third party  products:

·        Snapshell, Driver License scanner  http://www.acuantcorp.com/
·        Clickatell SMS Web service - https://www.clickatell.com/
·        Bofan , PT502 Gps tracking devices :  http://www.bofan.cc
·        XML integration – ePlease read XML interface section above
·        Google Maps -https://developers.google.com/maps/?hl=en


14. Summary

In a complex business environment like car rental business it is absolutely necessary to use a tool that will simplify the overall processes and make the every day tasks much easier. It requires a system that is easy to use and is cost effective at the same time, pleasant to work and  fully capable and complete when it comes to functionality. No doubt about it, this system is  Carhire Manager Web.  


For further details you may visit : www.carhiremanagerweb.com







Monday, 12 October 2015

Multiple Websites - Lift to a higher level





As you already know ,  Carhire Manager Web includes the following integrated parts
  • Back office
  • Website
  • CRM functionality
  • XML interface
  • Mobile Interface
  • Vehicle tracking
The Website is the integrated B2C platform which is used by internet visitors in order to submit their bookings into the system and pay online. Bookings are instantly available to and visible by the back office users. Users can even get a notification in the form of an email or SMS for every web reservation coming in.  

Getting Internet clients through websites is a must and this requires a strong web presence which is a highly essential aspect for every serious car rental business no matter the size. We understand perfectly well every single aspect of the increasing needs and the challenges that car hire business face nowadays in respect to the web. That’s why we decided to add a feature that will lift both our system and our customers to a higher level of creativity and effectiveness in utilizing the Web.  

Our car rental software now allows you to have not only one but…multiple integrated websites without any limit. Yes that's right, any number of websites! The number of websites depends only on the number of domain names that you own. Practically speaking you may set up all the domains on your web server or web servers of your choice and create a separate website for each domain. The only requirement is that the web server must have access to the database of Carhire Manager Web.
  
You may set up and customize each one of the websites right from the back office admin menu. You can create your designs, images, static pages and you are up and running in no time. Of course you may also apply SEO techniques   for each website individually.  Additionally any other websites created by a third party may connect to Carhire Manager Web through the XML interface. The sky is the limit!


Monday, 28 September 2015

Car Rental Software - Beauty and the speed

In information technology, the user interface (UI) is everything designed into an information device with which a human being may interact. The user interface can arguably include the total "user experience," which may include the aesthetic appearance of the device, response time, and the content that is presented to the user within the context of the user interface. At the same time User interface is a balancing act between technical functions and visual cues in the effort to optimize the way that the user interacts with the system.

Being a web based Car rental software, Carhire Manager Web was initially designed with a traditional web UI. At some point we decided to enhance the look and feel of the software , simply speaking,  to add more beauty.

The aesthetic appearance, Ease of use and speed were our main important criteria while trying to revamp the UI Carhire Manager Web. We found out that by making effective use of the jQuery technology we could provide an appearance which every windows user finds quite familiar. Actually we decided to give a "desktop" look to our Web application and we did it.The user can pin and unpin icons on the screen, organize the icons on the desktop , use windows like start button e.t.c. Yes it looks like desktop but its Web 100 %.

Apart from the appearance, speed is without any doubt a very important part of a UI. The new UI was not only beautiful but also also faster than the previous UI. As we were not fully satisfied with the performance change we tried to enhance performance even more. After all,  better performance means higher productivity. After a number of technical enhancements and tweaks in the software, we managed to reduce loading times and increased the overall performance essentially. Thus the outcome of our effort: Beauty and Speed is what the users  of our car rental system enjoy today.

Structure of the car rental system

A modern car rental system has no choice but to cover all the different aspects that a car rental operation involves. B2C and B2B interactions, websites, CRM, office users, mobile users, system integration (see previous post about XML interface) aspects have to be taken into consideration when building a car rental system. Its not just about developing a piece of killer car rental software adopting the latest technology but building a complete system that can accommodate the various players within the system.
Office users can manage their every day operations, through the Back office and depending on the role of each user the system allows an appropriate set of operations. Managers, fleet managers, branch managers, Counter Staff, maintenance staff, accountants or anybody else within the system, each one of them may access the information of their interest. Mobile users can manage their activities while being on the move away from the office. Website visitors can submit their car rental reservations into Carhire Manager Web, pay online and interact with the system directly through the pages of the integrated website.
Small agents can also enter their bookings into the system through the integrated agent portal while the bigger ones and the big internet car rental brokers can do it by using the XML interface. The XML interface may also be used in order to connect any other system to Carhire Manager Web. A car rental software must include all necessary CRM functionality in order to manage the interactions between the business and the car rental client. Sending newsletters, evaluation forms, notifications by email or SMS to clients but also providing the users of the system with all necessary client statistics is without any doubt a very important part of a car rental system.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

XML interface - a MUST for every car rental software solution

The XML interface


XML interface is a must for every professional car rental software solution. The XML interface is like the open window of that a software has in order to be able to  see and talk to the rest of the world.

Carhire Manager Web  XML interface is undoubtly a very essential part in the package. This is the tunnel where data exchange with other systems is taking place.  Carhire Manager Web XML interface is an XML  web service based on the SOAP protocol that follows the OTA standard. OTA stands for OpenTravel Alliance.

Just to put it simply the XML interface is a set of functions that the another program may call in order to retrieve , enter  or manipulate data. These functions usually take in a number of parameters. When another program calls a function within this web service  a request is sent to Carhire Manager Web  asking/requiring something and Carhire Manager Web will return an XML response back. 

An example might be that another program may for instance call a function to get rates and availability for a certain date range.  It can also be a request for submitting a booking with all necessary details. Carhire Manager witll perform some tasks and finaly return a response  back.

Carhire Manager Web XML interface is currently  connected  with a number of brokers or wholesaler companies ( Cartrawler, Traveljigsaw, Micronexus, Carjet, AutoEurope, Skyscanner e.t.c.)

Carhire Manager Web is also interfaced through XML with Cobra (Sixt International ) and shortly will have  XML connection with Budget International.

There is of course  enormous benefits by using the XML interface. Here are some of the most important benefits

·        Reduced need of  human resources that leads to
·        Reduced costs
·        Reduced errors in the system by automating data entry)
·        Instant data exchange on real time
·        Validity of data is guaranteed.


The majority of the big car rental brokers nowadays require an XML interface from  car rental companies in order to start a cooperation. The era of exchanging faxes about bookings is definitely over. It looks like the era of exchanging emails about bookings is also over. We are now living in the XML era.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Pricing Engine – The Heart of a Car Rental Software



Looking back at the early 90’s car rental booking systems one may easily realize the dramatic changes that have occurred based on the increased needs of our days. A pricing engine of a system in the early 90s differs enormously compared to the pricing engine a system that is developed to face our times competitive environment.

In the 90’s the average car rental company had mainly three season rates, e.g. Low, Mid and High and these rates could be applied to a number of agents and were valid for an entire year.

The explosive evolution of the internet, the huge increase of people using the internet since the last decade came to change the rules of the game. Suddenly there was an explosive increase of users booking their car rentals through the web. They could find more attractive prices for a car rental online.  Car rental brokers had to modify their systems or die. Car rental companies had to start playing the match on a new ground – the Web. The game in this ground demanded a new way of thinking when it comes to pricing.

Building the pricing engine of our car rental software, Carhire Manager Web was one of the most challenging tasks in the entire project. We had set the following basic requirements.
  • Creating new rates had to be quick and innovative
  • Rate modification  had to be an instant process
  • The engine had to be extremely flexible in increasing or decreasing prices any time covering all possible
  •  It should be very clear which rates were applied to each agent
  • All the above should be possible with a minimum need of data entry.


When a user creates a new rate in Carhire Manager Web the system prompts the user to enter a name for the rate, number of seasons and number of scales.




Pressing the Create button redirects the user to a screen that reminds a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. The user is now required to define

·        from date and to date . These two dates are referring to the submission period of the booking
·        from date and to date . These two dates are referring to the actual rental period of the booking


 The next step is to either enter the prices in this screen or just export the content to Microsoft Excel and do all necessary work and then import the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet back into Carhire Manager Web. The ability of exporting to and importing from Microsoft Excel provides a big amount of flexibility since the user may do all necessary calculations and recalculations using formulas, examining margins in order to decide the pricing. When ready the only thing that is required is a button click in order to import the result of this work back to the system.


A rate can then be applied to one or many agents. The agents and their assigned rates maybe viewed in a tree view styled screen.



For each agent we may define

  • Early bird discounts  -  Discounts for early bookers (one or many)
  • Flexible Rates  - Increased or decreased rates/ special offers (one or many)
  • Commissions – Commission payable to agent (one or many)
  • Free days – Free days offers (one or many)
Remember that a certain rate may be used by several agents but for every specific agent we may have different early bird discounts, different  flexible rates ( offers ), commissions  or free days. Hence this eliminates the need of creating constantly new rates. Please note that an agent using a specific rate may have a number of Early birds discounts or flexible rates assigned.

The pricing engine for a car rental software is like the heart for a body.  It is not my intention to go further into details and analyze the pricing engine because my aim was just to show the basic concept of the pricing engine of Carhire Manager Web.  This model provides an overall flexibility over the rate system and enables the car rental company to handle rates with extreme ease and to be highly competitive.

Andreas Michael

Carhire Manager Web http://www.carhiremanagerweb.com/ 
Datalogic Consultants http://www.datalogicco.com









Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Car rental software - A complete solution - Features Matrix

Car rental software - A Complete Solution


Designing and developing a serious car rental solution it is at least a very demanding task. Designing and developing a tool like Carhire Manager Web was not just demanding it was a big challenge. It is not just a matter of thousands of man hours needed to produce the million lines of source code. If you are writing source code and want to be innovative then it’s challenging. If you are dealing with state of the art technology then it is actually more than challenging. It is really tough business. My deep respect to my developer team for the outstanding outcome of their really tough job.

First of all, a car rental software must be easy to use and cost effective. Due to the big   need of mobility in a car rental business, a car rental system must be accessible from any web enabled device. A car rental software has to be “The Tool” for managing customer service, bookings, fleet, employee performance, financial, distribution partners, online and XML reservations. Any proper car rental software solution has to be a complete solution that keeps every aspect of a car rental business connected and under control.

There is a quite big range of car rental software products currently in the market. The approach, the coverage and the price may vary between different products.
Carhire Manager Web is not simply just another car rental software. It is a – no nonsense - complete solution – a web based solution - for any size of a company in the car rental industry.

In order to give you a chance to realize the size and the coverage of Carhire Manager Web I have decided to provide the Features Matrix below. You may also find this matrix in the product page http://www.carhiremanagerweb.com


Carhire Manager Web Features Matrix

Function
Description





Security


Authentication
Forms Authentication
 

Windows Authentication
 

Lock Screen when idle
 
Access Restriction
User Rights Wizard
 

I.P. access restriction
 

Auto Lock of account in case of 3 failed logins
 
Transaction Logs /Tracking
Central log file
 

Object History.
 

Encryption
 
Back Office Functionality


User Inteface
Intuitive user interface
 

Facebook like Live Messaging System
 

Widgets (sticky notes, clock, calculator, alerts)
 

Multitasking
 
Live Dashboards
Operation Dashboard with drill down analysis
 

Manager Dashboard with drill down analysis
 

Reminders
 

Days monitoring
 
Fleet Management
Vehicle details
 

Vehicle lists
 

Vehicle Images
 

Vehicle Documents
 

Vehicle reminders
 

Fleet Chart per vehicle category
 

Damage report
 

Service Cards
 

Service reports
 

Vehicle transfers
 

Accident reports
 

Vehicle Depreciation
 
Equipment
Equipment Inventory
 

Equipment categories
 

Equipment availability
 

Equipment chart
 
Vehicle Tracking
Live Vehicle Tracking
 

Interfaced with Google Maps
 

Route Playback.
 

Device list
 

Command center
 
Agents
Agent details
 

Agent history
 

Agent overall report
 

Commissions report
 

Performance
 

Agent summary invoicing
 

Agent documents
 

Agent targets
 

Agents portal
 
A powerful rate  engine
Excel like User interface
 

Multiple rates  per agent/Multiple agents per rate
 

Rates based on rental date & reservation date
 

Export to Excel & Import from Excel
 

Early Birds
 

Flexible rates / Special Offers
 

Commissions
 

Client Transfer Rates
 

Split Rates
 

Multi brand capability
 

Yield management
 
Clients
Client Details
 

Client List
 

Client history
 

Client Statistics
 

Client payments
 

Client  statement of account
 
Quotation
Quick quotation
 

Send quotation by email / SMS
 

Convert quotation to reservation
 

Convert quotation to agreement
 
Reservation
Quick reservation & normal reservation
 

Send confirmation
 

Reservation
 

User Notification by email / SMS
 

Reservation reports
 

Visual presentation on a fleet chart
 

Manual allocation of vehicles
 

Auto allocation & optimization
 
Check out
Days Monitoring with all details of deliveries
 

Prepare Vehicle
 

Initiate Agreement
 

Scan of  driving Licence or  Id  for client details
 

Innovative client search function
 

Mobile interface checkout
 

Customized Rental Agreement
 

Vehicle condition (damages)
 

Fuel Options
 

Extras
 

Equipment check out
 

Amend booking
 

Add extra charges  & invoice
 

Extensions
 

Replacements
 
Check In
Check in from fleet chart  & day’s monitoring
 

Check In form
 

Quick Check In with QR reader
 

Mobile  interface check in
 

Refunds & credit notes
 

Equipment check in
 

Vehicle condition (damages)
 

Issue Damage invoice
 
Long term rental- Leasing
Master Agreements
 

Leasing – Long term rentals
 

Clients Summary Invoicing
 

Leasing history
 
Client Transfers
Client Transfers
 

Special rates for transfers
 

Drivers for transfers
 

Transfer Invoicing
 
Cashbook
Daily cashbook per branch
 

Automatically updated
 

Daily cash reports
 

Day closing
 

Cash Entries
 
Availability
Quick  group availability
 

Monthly availability
 

Daily availability
 

Group Availability reports
 
Forecasting
Forecast of bookings for a specific period
 

Forecast daily reservations
 
Vehicle Fines
Vehicle Fines
 

Track Fines
 
 Multi Brand
Multi Brand Capability
 

Logotype per Brand
 

Track brand per agreement
 
 Reporting / Statistics
Using Crystal Reports Engine
 

Financial reports
 

Agent reports
 

Performance reports
 

Revenue Analysis reports
 

Fleet Reports
 

Reservation reports
 

Agreement reports
 

Equipment Reports
 

Leasing Reports
 

Client Transfer Reports
 

Clients reports
 
Website/E-Shop  Functionality


On- line bookings
Multiple Websites (Support multiple domains)
 

Customized Layout of website
 

On line bookings for internet visitors
 

On line bookings for internet visitors
 

Login for internet visitors
 

Sign up on News Letters.
 
Iframe
Iframe support
 

Agent specific iframe.
 
Deep Link
Deep link support
 

Deep link in combination with XML interface
 
CRM functionality


SMS & Emails
Send emails to Clients
 

Send  SMS to Clients
 

Send SMS  or email with offers
 

Create “live” mailing lists
 
Express CheckOut
Express Check Out link with confirmation
 

Express Checkout Form
 
Client details
Client history
 

Client statistics
 

Client birthday reports / reminders
 
Evaluations
Submit evaluations
 

Evaluation Summary
 
Complaints
Complain follow up system
 

Complaint related document archiving
 
Agent Portal


Agent portal
Create bookings
 

View bookings
 

Amend bookings
 

View commission Report
 
XML interface


SOAP XML Web Service
XML interface with major car rental brokers like Cartrawler, TravelJigsaw , Carjet , MicroNexus , AutoEurope e.t.c.
 

Group Availability & rates
 

Locations
 

Insert reservation
 

Update a reservation
 

Cancel reservation
 

Stop sales
 

Can be used to connect with any broker / agent 
 

Can be used to connect additional websites
 

Create XML users
 

Send XML specification
 
Mobile Interface


Mobile UI
Check out
 

Check In
 

QR code reader
 

Damages
 

Days Monitoring
 
Accounting Interface


Generic Accounting interface
Generic accounting interface
 

XML - Web Service
 
Administration


Setup
Options setup form
 

Create user roles
 

Adding / deleting  user & user rights
 
Ad hoc queries
Ad-Hoc  Queries Tool
 

Instant Ad-Hoc queries
 

Save & Print tabular reports
 
Admin Ticket system
Ticket system for correcting transactions
 
Export
Export data
 
Widgets
Widgets for administrators
 
System
System Alerts for administrators